Are you interested in studying entrepreneurship in college and need help picking the best school? Look no further. We compiled a list of the top qualities you need to consider before choosing a school to pursue an entrepreneurship major, minor, certificate, master’s, and more.
Selecting the right college to study entrepreneurship will help set you up for success as a founder or contributor to another startup or for any career that values innovation and grit. Whether you are studying entrepreneurship full-time or as a compliment to another major, you will want to make sure to pick a college with a good variety of opportunities and a legacy of entrepreneurship.
We hope you’ll use the qualities below as your guide when evaluating programs like ours at University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business. The entrepreneurship opportunities here are provided in partnership between the Department of Entrepreneurship & Strategy and the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute.
1. Diversity of Programs
Amelia Wood knew the right path for her was double major in finance and health, society, and policy, but she had entrepreneurial passions she wanted to pursue.
“I couldn’t afford to add as many majors as I wanted, so it was important to me that I could balance my interests,” Wood said. “I didn’t want to have to sacrifice one for the other.”
At the University of Utah, she found Lassonde+X, where students from any major can learn the entrepreneurial mindset.
“Now I can pick and choose what I want to learn, creating my own capstone or portfolio in entrepreneurship that’s perfect for me,” she said. “I’m refining my skills in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without a diverse set of opportunities.”
According to Tina Ziemek, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship, this level of customizability is one of the University of Utah’s major strengths.
“You can scroll through the course catalog and find a series of courses that interest you,” Ziemek said. “Our degrees and experiences are individualized and customizable, and I love to see students take advantage of that.”
2. Culture of Entrepreneurship
If you have plans to be an entrepreneur – especially as a student – you’ll want all the help you can get.
Of course, you should look for programs with strong faculty within the department. But, even if the school has a diverse offering of programs, well-rounded support is what will really carry you over the finish line.
“At the University of Utah, so many departments across campus embrace and highlight entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial students,” Ziemek said. “We have core entrepreneurship classes, but we also have courses in music, design, the sciences, and more taught with an entrepreneurial lens. We have people who value entrepreneurial thinking across campus and departments. That’s valuable, especially for young startups.”
Don’t make the mistake of only looking at rankings of the school overall, though – make sure you compare business schools and specific majors as well. The best rated universities and colleges don’t always have it all.
4. Scholarship & Grant Opportunities
While you’re paying college application fees, tuition bills are no doubt looming over your head. Weighing schools’ scholarship opportunities can make or break an admission offer.
“I just spoke with a student about choosing a college this week, and that’s the advice I gave her: ‘if you can afford it, you can make any school work for you,’” Ziemek said. “If a school is offering to pay your tuition, you’ll have a lot more flexibility to take the classes you want and learn what you need to.”
Outside of scholarships for you and your courses, you should also consider the grant and funding opportunities for your startup ideas. Many business schools host competitions for student startups, like the U’s Get Seeded, and having these opportunities built in can be the boost your idea needs.
“As an entrepreneur, and especially as a student entrepreneur, you should be looking for funding everywhere,” said Kathy Hajeb, a director at the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute and associate lecturer in the David Eccles School of Business. “Colleges that offer resources and funding alongside your education, that’s a jackpot – if you can bootstrap your idea and get a degree at the same time, why wouldn’t you?”
5. Faculty That ‘Entrepreneur’ Their Classrooms
If colleges expect their students to be entrepreneurs, students should expect the same from their professors. Just as students at the University of Utah, like Wood, are entrepreneuring their majors, professors are entrepreneuring their syllabi.
“In my department, we’re able to design our courses,” Ziemek said. “We’re given a lot of agency to create and design lesson plans that we think students will actually benefit from. When we match our creativity with the students’, it makes class time more productive. It’s been a huge opportunity for everyone involved, and really integral for the students.”
6. Research & Academia
Schools with faculty of different backgrounds – a mix of academia and practical experience – is preferred, but Ziemek says to look a layer deeper.
“Our faculty is very willing to cross-collaborate across disciplines,” Ziemek said. “That’s a huge bonus for me and the students: it keeps my job interesting, and it offers students the opportunity to connect with their peers in new ways.”
Wood is working on a startup that empowers people with chronic illness to take charge of their personal finances. Through faculty mentorship, she’s been able to gather the research and data necessary to make the plan a reality.
“The knowledge base of these professors is extraordinary,” she said. “My conversations with researchers and faculty have made my project a possibility.”
7. Peer Interaction
Seek out schools that make room for peer-to-peer interaction and conversation.
“Students often learn more from each other outside the classroom than from one-on-ones with professors,” Ziemek said. “The best programs are ones that hit the sweet spot: you need interesting and knowledgeable professors that can deliver the information, and then structured spaces for students to bounce the ideas off each other and practice the concepts.”
For Wood, her capstone idea relied on feedback from a friend.
“Increasing the people I know that I trust has been instrumental,” Wood said. “I’ve learned so much through conversations.”
Places like the Make Space, the Foundry and Lassonde Studios at the University of Utah have been perfect places for students to brainstorm together.
“The University of Utah is really unique in terms of physical spaces,” Ziemek said. “I’ve talked to students who haven’t talked to their peers face-to-face all semester, and that’s a big detriment to their education. When you can meet, take it.”
Peers can do more than offer feedback or organize study groups – they just might be your dream business partner.
“If you need code to create your app, think about asking the entrepreneurial minds around you,” Hajeb said. “When you’re able to be surrounded by great thinkers, you need to start thinking about how to build an alliance, or even a partnership. We tend to think along the lines of ‘I need to pitch to an investor to get enough money to go buy these services,’ but what if you could partner up? If you’re granted the opportunity to spend time with your peers, take advantage of the chance to work with them.”